22:20 GMT03 March 2021
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    Earlier this week, Brexit negotiator David, Lord Frost, told the House of Lords EU Committee that the United Kingdom and the European Union have yet to achieve what he called a “friendly cooperation between sovereign equals”.

    Dr Richard Wellings, acting research director at the British think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, shared his views with Sputnik on the recent developments in the post-Brexit relations between the UK and the EU. 

    Sputnik: We’ve heard countless tirades over the shortcomings of the deal with the EU. In the meantime any deal would have brought about an economic setback, not to mention the ongoing pandemic. So how much better off could we have been in the long run?

    Dr Richard Wellings: I think Brexiteers were always very honest that there would be teething problems in the short term after Brexit, that there would be an adjustment process. But their view is that the long-term benefits will far outweigh any short-term costs and they will come from freer trade with the rest of the world and also from the freedom to reduce the huge burden of EU regulation on the UK's domestic economy.

    Sputnik: PM Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy representative David, Lord Frost, confirmed that the European parliament was now expected to request an extension to the two-month period to ratify the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. When ratified, how will it affect both parties' businesses?

    Dr Richard Wellings: The extension in a way makes sense because we're in unusual times now because of the pandemic. In usual times, UK businesses would have found it much easier to find partners in the rest of the world to buy cheaper goods and services from outside the EU. But unfortunately, that's not so easy at the moment because of the pandemic. And also, both the UK and the EU are facing supply chain problems. In fact, these are global supply chain problems because of the pandemic. So, we have problems with shipping capacity and so on, and delays at the ports. I think this extension really makes sense for both parties.  

    Trucks leaving Larne Port, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021
    © AP Photo / Brian Lawless
    Trucks leaving Larne Port, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021

    Sputnik: It was reported that Brussels will offer only a three or six-month extension to “grace periods” to ease supermarket supply chains and parcel deliveries to Northern Ireland instead of a requested delay to 2023. What are the chances that the Northern Ireland Protocol will be successfully renegotiated?

    Dr Richard Wellings: I think there will be pressure for this issue to be resolved from both the Republic of Ireland and from the UK, and that's because of the terrible history of conflict in Northern Ireland. I don't think any party wants to return to that kind of conflict. So, one hopes that the present problems can be resolved. And there has been evidence in recent weeks that we've heard of tensions growing in Northern Ireland with some of the paramilitary organisations rearing their ugly head again. I think there'll be pressure from both sides not to make this a huge issue and really affect either the EU or the UK. And Northern Ireland isn't particularly important from an economic perspective: it has a very small economy in the overall scheme of things. And it's not an obvious route to, if you like, smuggle unchecked goods into the rest of the EU because it obviously makes no sense from a geographical perspective to do that.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Northern Ireland, COVID-19, Brexit, EU, UK
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